DHHS Implements Mental Health Resource Access Pilot

Dr. Nishi Rawat is the senior vice president of Appriss Health and co-founder of OpenBeds. (DHHS)
David Golbitz
The Daily Record

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has implemented a new pilot program designed to improve access to mental health resources throughout the state.

“We break down the silos that traditionally exist in physical and medical care, the behavioral health organizations, homeless care providers, criminal justice system providers,” said Dr. Nishi Rawat, senior vice president of Appriss Health and co-founder of OpenBeds.

OpenBeds is a cloud-based platform that connects the region’s hospitals and mental health treatment facilities, allowing real-time updates about bed availability so that patients in need of psychiatric treatment can receive assistance more quickly than the previous system.

“We work with a state government to establish these behavioral health networks,” Rawat said. “We work with health care systems, hospitals, social workers and case managers and emergency departments. They’re the ones day in and day out who are seeing people in need of acute inpatient psychiatric care.”

On average, people had to wait about 12 hours before a bed in a treatment facility could be located, Division of Behavioral Health network administrator Mikayla Johnson said. That’s time spent in an emergency room or a jail and not receiving the appropriate care.

“The process previously was the emergency departments calling the acute psych bed programs every four hours to see if they had open beds,” Johnson said. “We just felt that that was inefficient and could be improved upon.”

With OpenBeds, referral organizations enter patient information, including the type of care needed — inpatient or outpatient, mental health or substance abuse — and the database provides a list of appropriate treatment facilities and their current capacity. When a bed is available, the treatment facility replies to the digital referral and arranges to have the patient transferred.

“They can use decision support tools that we’ve created to figure out what’s the right type of treatment, level of treatment, what’s most appropriate,” Rawat said.

OpenBeds also provides data to track how well the system is working.

“We track all sorts of metrics at the regional level as well as the local level to assess how are we doing,” Rawat said. “Are people getting to care in a timely fashion? Who’s falling through the cracks? Are organizations appropriately referring up and down the continuum of care?”

Initially available only in Region 6 — which consists of Cass, Dodge, Douglas, Sarpy and Washington counties — and only for inpatient psychiatric care, DBH and OpenBeds hope to expand the program statewide over the next few years.

Once expanded, substance use treatment will also be available through the network.

“We’re hoping that, if it goes well, we can implement it across the state and really serve Nebraskans in real time and make sure that they get the services they need when they need it and they don’t have to wait for treatment,” Johnson said.

“The Division of Behavioral Health and Region 6 Behavioral Healthcare, as well as OpenBeds, are really invested in making sure that people that have mental health issues and substance use disorder issues get the help when they need the help as soon as possible,” Johnson added. “This is just an example of us trying to better our system. We hope to continue to do projects and think innovatively in how to serve Nebraskans better.”


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